Weekly Fitness Food: Hummus


hummus vv

By:  Vivien Veil

Pronounced hoo-moos, this beloved Middle Eastern staple is all the rage in Western countries, especially those in the health movement.  This popular dip is low in fat and high in protein – making it an excellent addition to anyone’s diet.  Female fitness fans must embrace the power of the chickpea — aka garbanzo beans.  Chickpeas help balance hormones during that dreadful time of the month.   PMS can threaten to wreak havoc on a female’s athletic performance.

Now that is where the chickpea’s God-given talent comes into play.  Chickpeas possess plant hormones known as isoflavones, which mimic oestrogen in the body.  Isoflavones help ease symptoms of PMS and menopause.  So, grab yourself some hummus and wave goodbye to severe hot flushes.  The super colossal chickpea is here to save the day!

The chickpea’s rich B-vitamin content will support the functions of your nerves and muscles.  Their high carb status will give you the energy you need to exercise hard.

2010: Lebanon breaks Israel's hummus world record in the village of Fanar, east of Beirut.

2010: Lebanon breaks Israel’s hummus world record in the village of Fanar, east of Beirut.

A dispute over hummus’ origins has escalated among the Lebanese, Palestinian and Israeli people.  The hummus food fight began after Israel claimed the dish as their own in 2009.  Israeli writer Meir Shalev claims the Biblical Book of Ruth contains the first reference in print of hummus.

And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar.

– Ruth 2:14

Shalev asserts that most translations swapped the original word of chometz to vinegar.  According to Shalev, the letters chet, mem, and zadek are the same letters that make up the words for chamootz (which signifies vinegar) and chimtza (hummus).  “In biblical Hebrew there were no vowels, so words were more confusing.  If Boaz served his workers pita dipped in vinegar instead of something more substantial like hummus, they wouldn’t have been very happy,” states Shalev.

The president of the Lebanese Industrialists’ Association, Fadi Abboud, charges Israel of “stealing” Lebanon’s cuisine by marketing dishes such as hummus as its own.  Israeli co-author of Not on Hummus Alone, Yehuda Litani, agrees that hummus’ origin is Arab. “The Israelis took hummus as if it’s their own.  In the 1960s is when Israel adopted it as their own national food.  We adopted it, but it’s really not ours.  This national war is stupid.  Hummus originated from the Arabs.”

Photo:  Chef Kate Mcaloon

Hummus places in Israel and Palestine are like Starbucks in the states.

– Yehuda Litani

Traditional hummus, which means chickpeas in Arabic and modern Hebrew, contains chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt.  The classic recipe can be adapted to include other ingredients, such as black beans, sun-dried tomatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, artichokes, and caramelised onions.  In fact, hummus has been so Westernised that shops often sell dozens of flavour options.

Whoever speaks English can’t make good hummus.

– Yehuda Litani

After many years of eating hummus, I must admit that it is one of my all-time favourite dishes.  I absolutely love Middle Eastern cuisine.  While I have strayed from the original hummus recipe, nothing beats old fashioned hummus – especially when eaten at an authentic Israeli or Arab restaurant.  It is no wonder the Israelis eat hummus for breakfast.  It is just that delicious.

Here is a tried and tested hummus recipe from my kitchen to yours.  Yehudi Litani may not agree with it, but this modernised hummus recipe tastes simply divine.

hummus vivien

Caramelised Onion Hummus

Serves:  4


  • 1 cup dried organic chickpeas
  • 6 tbsp raw sesame tahini
  • Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish and frying onions
  • 1 medium brown onion, sliced
  • Smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Fresh coriander or parsley, chopped for garnish
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate soda (baking soda)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • [Optional] Organic pine nuts, toasted, for garnish
  • [Optional] 3 tablespoons jalapeño pepper slices (for the HOT HOT HOT spice lovers)


*Hummus tastes more delicious when prepared on the day you want to serve it.  So, boil the chickpeas and prepare on the day.  Refrigerated hummus cannot compare to fresh hummus.

  1. Put the dry chickpeas in a medium sized bowl and cover with cold water.  Fill the bowl with enough water to completely cover them up.  Stir in 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate soda and soak overnight.  Note: Soaking the chickpeas in bicarbonate soda will make them very tender.
  2. Drain the chickpeas and rinse them off thoroughly.  Then place them in a large pot with enough cold water to cover.  Add the remainder 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate soda.
  3. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat.  Simmer the chickpeas partially covered for roughly 1-2 hours, or until they are tender (the time depends on your chickpeas).  Note: You will know they are ready once their skin starts coming off.  Add more warm water if the chickpeas start to dry out.
  4. Drain the chickpeas, but don’t throw out the chickpea water.  Save it in a bowl. Set aside some chickpeas and place them on a plate. You will want to use these for garnish.
  5. Heat a frying fan with roughly 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Slice the medium brown onion and cook over medium heat until they are golden brown or caramelised.  Once ready, set aside.
  6. Tahini Time:  Mix the tahini with half of the lemon juice and half of the garlic.  Then pour in some of the reserved chickpea water and quickly stir to form a loose paste.
  7. Get out your processor and add the tahini mixture and the chickpeas.  Process until the hummus is smooth.  Then, add the cumin, caramelised onion, cayenne pepper, sea salt, and black pepper to taste.  If it is too thick, add more reserved chickpea liquid.  You can add a bit of olive oil, too.  The goal is to create a soft paste.
  8. Get a spoon and taste your hummus.  Does it need more flavour?  Simply add more sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, lemon juice or garlic.  Remember it is your dish, so play around with the flavours.
  9. To serve, spoon out the hummus onto a large plate or bowl.  Make a depression in the centre with the back of a spoon.  Drizzle olive oil over the hummus, top with the reserved whole cooked chickpeas, and sprinkle the smoked paprika and chopped coriander on top.

Serve with warm pita chips, rice cakes, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato wedges, or sliced raw vegetables.  You can also use this delicious hummus as a sandwich spread with lots of salad and guacamole.

Hummus contains 20 amino acids – including huge doses of tryptophan, phenylalanine, and tyrosine.  These combat the blues and mood swings.  Additionally, hummus’ omega 3’s help fight anxiety and depression. 


Vitamin C, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, 
E, K, iron, beta-carotene, 
folic acid, calcium, copper, 
iodine, magnesium, manganese, 
phosphorus, potassium, selenium, 
and zinc